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Friday, June 17, 2011


No... not the blockbuster, mind-blowing movie with the guy from Titanic. My book's inception.

A friend of mine who is reading my book and also happens to be from Montana--gulp!-- asked me how I decided to set the book in Livingston, MT. It is a reasonable question since I am a Puget Sounder who grew up in Arizona. So here is the somewhat embarrassing story of how I chose Livingston for Secrets:

I was at the dentist around this time two years ago and the hygienist was talking my ear off. Since my mouth is open and I can't answer back, I am basically listening to her monologue. She is telling me about the book she just read, and this book happens to be Twilight. I am not terribly interested in the book but I have no choice but to listen. As she rambles on, I take note that the story is set in Forks.

And I say, "Fmngs?"

Because, hello, have you been to Forks? It is the place where you run for beer and chips when you are camping at the beach. Or where you have lunch on your way through Olympic National Park. I'm sorry Twilight fans, it is a sorry place.

So she tells me, and I'm sure you all know, that Stephanie Meyer had never visited Forks (no kidding) but picked it because of the rainfall. Because vamps love the rain, apparently. This caught my imagination because I thought that Twilight could really be a shot in the arm for Forks. Perhaps it has helped, but the only effect I have noticed is a better quality of t-shirt.

Nevertheless, Twilight put Forks on the map.

The light bulb sparks to life over my head. I can write a novel and put some other town on the map, I tell myself. How brilliant of me.

I scurried home and pulled out my maps. Where should the story be? I wanted it in the west because the west rocks. And north because I didn't want my lovers to get too hot. And it needed to be mountain-y because they had to be able to hide a space ship and I love mountains. And, for some long-forgotten reason, it needed to be near a national park.

Then I found Livingston. Perfect. Mountains, Yellowstone, scenic... I was in business.

So I started writing. I figured vampires and wizards had been done, so I was going with aliens. But as I wrote and researched, I realized that Livingston was no Forks. It was a lovely town, so beloved by Robert Redford that he chose it as the location for A River Runs Through It. It was also the setting for The Horse Whisperer. Not to mention that Christopher Paolini is from there, so it is basically the setting for Eragon.

Oops. Didn't I feel dumb. Livingston didn't need me to put it on the map. It was already there. At that point, though, I had put lots of time and effort into the story so I went with it.

And that is the story of why I chose Livingston. I only hope that someday I will get over there and actually see if all the hours I spent on google maps resulted in plausible descriptions of the environs.

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